We wrote a piece for the website at the start of the season about how Klopp’s building something special here; a team of warriors, prepared to run opponents into the ground, with physical margins all over the pitch.
“Alisson is a man mountain, Van Dijk a colossus (to use Shankly’s famous Ron Yeates descriptor), Mané and Salah borderline Olympic sprinters.”
“There’s something quite exciting growing at Liverpool this season. There’s technical brilliance, there’ll be tactical masterpieces & there’ll be magic moments. But this aside, whether they’re on it or not, this Liverpool team will run you into the ground. Before a ball has been kicked, nobody will fancy playing these lads.”
As we sit top of the league after 23 games, this seems rather apt. Credit where credit is due, the recruitment has been largely superb. That said, assembling a squad is one thing, building a team is another. Speaking ahead of the 3-0 win against Southampton earlier this season, Klopp said of this current Liverpool crop:
“We didn’t win anything so far – not in the past and not this season – so let’s use the momentum and create a new momentum. We really want to be the ugliest team to play against. That is the plan, and to do it with good football players.”
You don’t need to look that far to find quotes from Klopp about unity, the collective whole, team work & the importance he places on these factors. In truth, you don’t need to look much further than the playing field.
I love listening to Jurgen Klopp talk football, but also talk life. His values as a human as well as a coach make him a glove-like fit for Liverpool & everything the city is about.
Klopp’s tactical expertise is hard to miss, this season in particular, as the Reds lead the Premier League in what’s surely its most competitive season to date. But it’s how he knits this with an unrelenting drive to nurture togetherness that’s so unique at the highest level. There’s no finer quote to demonstrate this than that of his when talking about Guardiola’s Barcelona and how they celebrate each goal “like it’s the first they’ve ever scored. It’s the perfect thing to show my team. I do it very often. I show them photographs of how Barcelona celebrate. I don’t use videos because I don’t copy Barça’s style. But you see them celebrate goal number 5,868 like they’ve never scored before. This is what you should always feel – until you die.”
On day 1 of his Liverpool squad’s mini-break to Dubai, during which Klopp has insisted that the emphasis is on hard work and preparation, my mind goes back to an anecdote he told about his time as Mainz coach & a pre-season tour he took the squad on:
“We took the team to a lake in Sweden where there was no electricity. We went for five days without food. They had to do this [he whistles and, using an imaginary fishing rod, casts off]. The other coaches said: ‘Don’t you think it’s better to train playing football?’ No. I wanted the team to feel that they can survive everything. My assistant coach thinks I’m an idiot. He asks if we can train there. No. Can we run there? No. But we can swim and fish!
“When I meet one of those players now, from our ‘Special Forces’, they tell me what happened in the first and last minute and every story in between. Each night in a fucking tent, lying on the roots, you don’t forget that. We had to find the next island. The first one there had to make a fire and boil some water. The whole time it was raining. Only five hours it was not and then [Klopp slaps his cheek] … a mosquito! How can they live in Sweden? You see the sun and [he slaps his cheek again] you feel mosquitos! But it was brilliant. We were like Bravehearts. You can stick a knife in me here – no problem. We went to the Bundesliga and people could not believe how strong we were.”
Klopp’s a special breed of manager & one we’re fortunate to have. He’s the kind of man players want to play for, the kind all leaders of teams, in whatever sphere of life, aspire to lead like. He talks highly of others around him (including opponents), ensures his players receive his public support & he most certainly enthuses us supporters in supporting our team. Remember the show of gratitude he gave the support following a drab 2-2 draw with West Brom at Anfield in 2015? Remember the disappointment he spoke of after we lost to Palace in April 2016 at Anfield and supporters left on 80 minutes? He asks patience from us and it seems to be radiating through his team; a team who have come back from being behind twice in recent weeks, firstly against Arsenal and then against Crystal Palace at the weekend. There was a sense of belief in both. Belief in the players, led by Jurgen Klopp.
Speaking before the Champions League final in 2013 when he was Dortmund manager, he said:
“I left Mainz after 18 years and thought: ‘Next time I will work with a little less of my heart.’ I said that because we all cried for a week. The city gave us a goodbye party and it lasted a week. For a normal person that emotion is too much. I thought it’s not healthy to work like this. But after one week at Dortmund it was the same situation. To find this twice, to be hit by good fortune, is very unusual.”
Well Jurgen, you’ve found it again. Win us the league and your face will be flown on flags on the Kop for decades to come. As Van Dijk said yesterday regarding Sir Kenny Dalglish, this city doesn’t forget its heroes & you’re on the way to becoming our latest.